Monday, January 10, 2011


I spent the early part of Saturday as I usually do, in a judo dojo instructing a bunch of small (and not so small) children. Last Saturday, I had to work a graveyard shift on the job, and I headed immediately down to the dojo, where classes run from 9:30AM to 1PM. It's a solid block of time spent away from the phone and the computer, ensconced in a padded cocoon that smells of sweat. It's always a great way to spend the day- we throw a bunch of children around, we beat the bejeezus out of each other, we kibbitz. At the end of the day's program, I took a hot shower, and got on the subway to go home, blissfully unaware of the news of the day. When I finally got to my car, and put on the radio, I was devastated by the news of the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and the murder of six others, including Christina-Taylor Green, a girl the same age as the children I had been teaching all morning. I was wiped out, the adrenaline rush that accompanies physical activity had worn off, so I was feeling the aches and pains that result in hitting the mats over the course of a few hours, and the ugly reality of the day's events penetrated the bubble in which I had spent the day. The world had seemed so different scant minutes before, an amusing place filled with camaraderie, learning, shared effort...

Worn out, sore, and heartsick, I climbed into bed shortly after getting home. I felt like an old man in a cruel world. It may sound strange to think of a smelly room in which people are throwing each other to the ground as a sanctuary, but I have come to think of it as one. The outside world was literally going to pieces as my friends and I happily roughed each other up, and taught a bunch of grammar school age children different ways to toss each other around. The outside world is a violent place, in which hateful, deranged people do harm to others. Inside our cloister, it looks a little rough, maybe even a little dangerous, but there's a sense of responsibility, nurturing, and trust that informs our actions. We always bow as we enter the room, walk onto the mats, begin the class, start practicing with an individual, end the class, and leave the mats. That insistence on ritual is a means of putting aside the outside world, of acknowledging that we are in a space that is out of the ordinary, engaging in activities that are outside the ordinary routine, activities that could be potentially dangerous if not conducted in a serious manner with an emphasis on shared development. It's a pity that the outside world isn't as safe or as nurturing as our little cloister.

UPDATE: I updated the post to add Christina-Taylor Green's name. This poor child, so senselessly slain at such a young age, should not be forgotten.


vacuumslayer said...

This entry is sayud...which is so understandable.

But dudes teaching kids martial arts is super-heartwarming. Which, um, art do you teach?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Thanks for that.

I skipped my Saturday teaching-children-to-fight classes because we are just starting a teaching-teenagers-to-build-robots effort, and Saturday was filled with that. Unfortunately, while Missus Z was driving to and fro, I was riding and following the news on FB and HuffPo.

It was good to be able to put it aside during the robot-intensive portions of the day. But everytime the engineering and science quieted down, the horror returned.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

There's a whole lotta "Shut up, that's why!" coming from the usual sources...and their enablers.

It's pretty sad that this is what it takes to reach a "teachable moment", as our Prez likes to say.

Will he learn anything himself, I wonder?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I imagine at the least he has learned to beef up his security detail.

vacuumslayer said...

Nm...reading carefully is my friend.

Are you feeling any better about things now?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

reading carefully is my friend.

why start now? It's funnier this way.

Von said...

I love this post. A) Kudos for spending your time doing worthwile things. You know how I feel about people working with kids. (BIG beer on me next time I'm in NYC)
B) maybe think of it this way - perchance one of your kids will stumble upon a bad situation one day, and will THROW THE BAD GUY TO THE GROUND AND SIT ON HIM until the police arrive. It could happen, and you'd be a part of that victory.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Thanks for the support, folks. I'm fine, but it's kinda freaky when you see something that makes you think your country is descending into madness. Luckily, my home community is really great, so I've bounced back.